45 Years After Rossi, Mommies Propagate Prejudice

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It’s been a very long time since I sat in the Frieze Building on the University of Michigan campus taking notes in a women’s studies course. While I registered mainly for administrative reasons (the session fulfilled a requirement for my English Literature major), the class had the added benefit of being thought-provoking. One of the assigned books, Strong-Minded Women, remains on my bookshelf today.

I trust my prof would have been pleased to see an essay I wrote today — prompted by an obituary on sociologist and feminist scholar, Alice S. Rossi (pictured here) — made the cut as an “editor’s pick” on Open Salon. You can read the piece, “45 Years After Rossi, Mommies Propagate Prejudice,” here. While I don’t take any formal classes today, I remain a student of sorts, observing how women’s attitudes and behaviors impact society.

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8 comments

  • Me

    Love your article. I know a few women who could use reading it but I’m not sure if I’ll send it to them or not…

  • Sharon

    Loved the article Pam.I also liked this comment:
    “As many have said (e.g., Daniel Gilbert) people often need to validate their choices by saying that those choices make them happy – whereas research shows that it’s not necessarily so.” and have to say I agree with it wholeheartedly. I’ve often thought that the reason these Momzilla’s are that ways is because they secretly envy what they assume are the benefits to being childfree.

  • Renee

    I have to be brutally honest here and run the risk of offending some, I fear. But… I find that those mommy-women who condescend to (at worst) or misunderstand (at best) other women who are childless, either by choice or not, are usually less educated and by extension, less liberated themselves. I have run across this over and over again in professional and social circles.

    It’s just a personal observation, but all of my girl friends are professionals, with a minimum of an undergrad education. Most have advanced degrees and none of us have ever questioned negatively the choices we’ve made to have or not have children. And believe me you, the childless ones are fiercely feminine, contributing much to the cause of the women’s movement in the workplace.

    By contrast, I have noticed that less educated women and women that do not work outside the home tend to be the smug ones about being mommies. I will reserve comments about that particular observation, since they may be on the judgmental side. Women who have kids and work outside the home, I have observed, balance quite a lot and are usually just looking to keep things running smoothly.

  • I don’t think I’d ever heard of Alice Rossi either, until I read her obituary in the paper. How many other unknown pioneers like her do we owe debts to?? I just picked up Gail Collins’s new book, “When Everything Changed” (approximate title?), & am looking forward to diving into that over Christmas vacation, if not before. I’m not sure younger women today who shy away from the “F” word are aware of just how far we really have come, & how huge a debt we owe to women like Alice Rossi.

    Congratulations on having this post (the Open Salon one, I mean) being named an Editor’s Pick!!

  • tiffany lee brown

    i agree that mommies can be smug and that a pro-natal, family-centric society can be socially, culturally, and politically discriminatory to the childless/childfree.

    but generalizations about Momzillas aren’t going to help all of us get beyond this. we all need meaning in our lives. if you work at an office 60 hours a week, shouldn’t you find meaning in your work? if you spend 200 hours a week taking care of children, shouldn’t you find meaning in that?

    propagating the Childless/Childfree vs. Stay-at-Home Mommies vs. Working Mothers construct, especially with Attitude, accusations, or meanness is just another way to set feminism back. of course everybody’s defensive in this environment…

    i’m childless/childfree and i advocate for equality of the childless/childfree. however, if we don’t take mothers and other parents into consideration, WE WILL LOSE. Daphne DeMarneffe’s book “Maternal Desire” is a pretty good, startling insight into this issue.

    • The overwhelmingly disproportionate share of voice of self-described “mommies” is hard to miss in today’s society — not to mention the “bump watches” and mainstream media fascination with pregnancy and parenting stories. My own mother agreed that today’s mom-centricity is off the charts and not something she recalls ever seeing before — and she’s been around 70 years. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. In fact, holding up a mirror may be one way to encourage a return to a more balanced view.

      One of the Open Salon comments summed up it up well: “it’s not psychologically healthy for any adult to be primarily
      identifying and defining his or herself by his or her relationship to
      someone else.” 

  • What an interesting chain of comments you spawned on Salon! I was actually kind of interested in what the man had to say — because as a childless woman, I often feel completely left out of the feminist agenda.

  • magdalen23

    Pamela ~ just to clarify, nowhere in my post (your reply post is nested under mine in this thread) did i suggest that the mommy voice wasn’t loud as hell. it is. i’m sick to death of bump watches and Brangelina and all that stuff.

    and i had the misfortune to live in NYC during the extremely obvious rise of Mommy Trendiness in the late 1990s.

    i don’t advocate ignoring it. magazines publish my writing on this subject, i bother to do a blog about it, etc., so i’m hardly ignoring it myself.

    but check it out: if i want to identify myself and define myself by my relationships to my friends, my artistic community, etc., why should anyone get on my case about it? by the same token, if a mother wants to go on and on about how her children are her source of meaning, well… who am i to say they shouldn’t be? (i happen to agree with you and the Salon poster, because i’ve seen and experienced the damage of mothers over-identifying with their children… but it’s not my business to intervene in that relationship with someone else.)

    what i’m worried about is that the divisiveness will really mess all of us up: moms, notmoms, kids, everybody. and it all boils down to looking down on women for daring to make their own life choices.

    not sure how we can make the parents understand what it’s like not to be a parent, and how we’re socially and politically disenfranchised…